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Process

Brainstorming the Display of Houston Data

Brian Barr

The last few days have been some of the most mentally exhaustive we've had in a while. Since steeping ourselves in Houston numbers for nearly a week, we have done little else but brainstorm for three days straight.

Most people think that brainstorming is just jotting down ideas for a few minutes on a whim, but to truly get the most out of your brain, you have to trick it into giving you all of your ideas so that you can sort the good from the bad later. In our case, we went through the process in several rounds to keep the ideas just focused enough to be productive. Constraint is the mother of invention, or something like that.

Our first round was focused on a statistic. We looked through a few books and then got started with "What are some ways that we could represent Houston's low voter turnout?" The output was decent, but we realized that the cards weren't coming fast enough and too many ideas were getting stuck in a mental filter.

The first round books.

The first round books.

In the second round we focused on ideas that could be expressed through a map. After looking through an even larger stack of books, we came up with proportionally even more ideas. 

The second round books.

The second round books.

In our third round, we focused on producing graphs and charts. Sensing a correlation between the number of books and the number of ideas, we brought in everything and the kitchen sink on this round. Harris's text on Information Graphics was noticeably the most helpful for this round.

In a parallel series of exercises, we focused on sketching coaster designs using some of the ideas from our previous rounds of brainstorming. A few books on advertising from Fondren Library helped with the experience, but the real breakthrough was using the Idea Index by Jim Krause to pick styles and iterate quickly.

To finish off this process, we need to sort and sift through all of the ideas to create the coasters. To do that, we've placed all of the notes on a wall and have begun to rearrange and filter through them to find the best ones. This shall be fun.